Biological and Environmental Safety FAQ

A requestor is any person who receives or seeks to receive, through any means, a select agent subject to this part from any other person.

The training programs are listed on the Environmental Health and Safety website. Review the requirements here.

The USA PATRIOT Act is a law signed by President Bush on October 26, 2001 that places restrictions on persons who possess select agents and provides criminal penalties for possession of such agents that cannot be justified for specified peaceful purposes. More information on the Patriot Act can be found on the Federal Government's Select Agents website.

A Select Agent is a microorganism (virus, bacterium, fungus, rickettsia) or toxin listed in Appendix A to Part 72-Select Agents. The term also includes:

  1. genetically modified microorganisms or genetic elements from organisms on Appendix A shown to produce or encode for a factor associated with a disease and
  2. genetically modified microorganisms or genetic materials that contain nucleic acid sequence coding for any of the toxins on appendix a or their toxic subunits

Everyone who handles agents on the list of Select Agents. Principal investigators (PIs) must register the possession of select agents with the Biological Safety officer in EHS. Failure to comply could result in criminal penalties. In addition, the Patriot Act of 2001 prohibits restricted persons from possessing, shipping, transporting or receiving select agents. In addition, the Patriot Act prohibits the possession of a "biological agent, toxin or delivery" (a list broader than select agents) of a type or quantity that is not reasonably justified by a prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose.

No one who works with, ships, transports or receives anything on the list of Select Agents, is exempt from the provisions of the Patriot Act.

You need to submit the rDNA Registration Form to Allison Miller by email or mail to Office of Research Compliance,100 Venture Way, Suite 216, Hadley, MA  01035.

An entity or facility is defined as any individual or government agency, university, corporation, company, partnership, society, association, firm, or other legal entity located at a single geographic site that may transfer or receive through any means a select agent to this part.

Transfer is the conveyance or movement from a point of origination to a point of destination either:

  • from one or territory to another
  • or entirely within one contiguous state or territory

Intrafacility transfers within a registered facility located at a single geographic site are not covered by the provisions of the CDC select agent standard, section 72.6(d), (e) and (f) provide that:

  • the intended use of the agent remains consistent with that specified in the most current transfer
  • for each intrafacility transfer, the facility maintains records that include the name and location of the recipient; the amount of agent transferred, and the date transferred. Such records must be maintained for a period of five years after the date of transfer or for 5 years after the agents are consumed or properly disposed, whichever is longer.

Transferor is any person who transfers or seeks to transfer through any means a select agent to this part to any other person.


In the context of the NIH Guidelines, recombinant DNA (rDNA) molecules are defined as either:

  • molecules that are constructed outside living cells by joining natural or synthetic DNA segments to DNA molecules that replicate in a living cell or
  • molecules that form from the replication of those described above

The NIH Guidelines is a document in constant evolution that was first drafted in 1976 by scientists concerned about developing standards for the safe practice of research involving rDNA as well as with organisms containing rDNA. An institution must follow the NIH Guidelines if it is conducting or sponsoring any recombinant DNA research that is funded by NIH.

Experiments are typically exempt when they involve rDNA that is:

  • Not in organisms and viruses
  • Entirely DNA segments from a single non chromosomal or viral DNA source
  • Entirely from a prokaryotic host including its indigenous plasmids or viruses when propagated only in that host or when transferred into another host by well established physiological means
  • Entirely from a eukaryotic host including its chloroplasts, mitochondria, or plasmids when propagated only in that host or a closely related strain of the same species
  • Entirely segments from a different species that exchange DNA by known physiological processes, though one or more may be synthetic equivalent (see Appendix A of the NIH Guidelines)
  • Not a significant risk to health or the environments as determined by the NIH Director (see Appendix C of the NIH Guidelines)

Research listed above may not be exempt if it also involves:

  • The deliberate transfer of a drug resistance trait to microorganisms not known to acquire the trait naturally if such transfer could compromise the use of the drug to control disease agents in humans, veterinary medicine or agriculture
  • Deliberate formation of rDNA containing genes for the biosynthesis of toxin molecules lethal for vertebrates at an LD50 of less than 100 nanograms/kilogram of body weight, or
  • The deliberate transfer of rDNA or DNA or RNA derived from rDNA into human research subjects.


Institutional Biosafety Committee approval of an rDNA registration is for a maximum of five years or to the end of the grant period. You will need to reapply at the end of the funding period or when you make substantial changes to your research using rDNA that were not described in the original proposal.

Send the completed rDNA form to Allison Miller, Office of Research Compliance. It may be emailed or mailed to 100 Venture Way, Suite 216, Hadley, MA  01035.

Initial screening and review is by the Biological Safety officer (BSO). The BSO assigns a review status to the registration as either

  1. no further review needed
  2. requires review by the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) or higher (a federal agency)

The BSO will inform the investigator when the pre-screening/initial review of the rDNA registration is completed and will inform them if the review needs to go to another level.

The IBC currently includes six UMass faculty with a broad spectrum of expertise on biosafety issues, the Director of Animal Care, the Biological Safety Officer, the Research Compliance Officer, and two community members.

For more details on general compliance issues contact Alison Bardwell. For specific questions regarding biological safety issues contact Judith LaDuc.

No. You are not required to submit any other forms.

The IBC meets at least four times per academic year. Please contact Allison Miller for their current schedule.

No. Your rDNA registration is valid for the life of your grant or a maximum of five years. If you make significant changes to your research or wish to continue your project beyond its expiration date you should send a memo to the Biological Safety Officer/EHS, stating that you wish to extend your project.

You can submit your rDNA registration at any time since it will be pre-screened, and usually reviewed, by the Biological Safety Officer (BSO). The BSO may determine that a registration requires review by the full IBC at its next meeting.

Only one copy of the registration form is required.

You will receive a letter from the compliance office letting you know that your rDNA registration has been reviewed and registered.

Send a memo to the Biosafety Officer/EHS in Draper Hall, stating the changes. The officer will let you know if you need to take any further action. 

It depends on the level of review needed. It can take any time between 2 days to 1 month. When you submit your registration you can ask for an estimate of how long the review process will take.

Approval of an rDNA registration extends to the end of the granting period for a maximum of 5 years. You will need to reapply at the end of the funding period or when you make substantial changes to your research using rDNA that were not described in the original proposal.

Graduate students can fill out an rDNA registration form but their PI/advisor must sign the form. Postdocs can submit a registration under their own name.